A Surfeit Of Lampreys?
I blame Henry I. First our rivers were filled with these prehistoric river monsters, and then they weren’t after he died from eating a surfeit of the buggers.
The lamprey is a really fugly snake-like creature that was around 200 million years before the dinosaurs. It’s the world’s oldest living vertebrate, and was once a pretty common sight in the country’s rivers. But the “living fossil”, which has a grotesque circular disc of razor-sharp teeth instead of jaws and looks like something from ‘Star Wars’, was hit by pollution during the Industrial Revolution, and the construction of mill weirs that blocked their migration.
Now though, as rivers experience their lowest pollution levels for more than 100 years and work is carried out to remove the barriers to migration, the Environment Agency says that they’re back in rivers like the Ouse, Trent, and Derwent. The question is; why do we want them?
It turns out they’re important for processing nutrients in rivers and providing a food source for other fish and birds such as herons. But the lamprey has long been regarded as a luxury food, eaten by the Romans, the Vikings and our kings and queens. Queen Elizabeth was sent a lamprey pie from Gloucester for the diamond jubilee in 2012 (although the fish was apparently imported from an American lake).
Now that it’s back, expect it to reappear on some hoity-toity Kensington restaurant menu next to the larks’ tongues. Bloody lampreys, coming over ‘ere, giving our children nightmares and creeping back into our national diet, it’s a disgrace etc.